Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How local breweries compete in a crowded market

Data taken from production reports published by the Brewers Association. Breweries quoting estimates or choosing not 
to report may cause actual breakdown of small/mid-size/large breweries to vary slightly compared to what is shown (click to enlarge).

At no time in history has there been as many breweries operating in the U.S. as there are today. Over 6000 are currently on record, and with still more in planning, an already crowded market promises to get even more challenging.

Competition is fierce and breweries are experiencing slower growth. Just brewing good beer isn't enough to get by, which brings about the question of how best to navigate the now choppy brewing waters.

Locally, the playing field consists of over 70 brewing companies (based on openings in 2018 not accounted for in the graphic above). Operations vary in size and scope, ranging from small-batch nanobreweries selling primarily on site, to large production breweries supporting multi-state distribution channels.

With that in mind, founders from breweries big and small were asked what they are doing to stay competitive in the current business environment. Not surprisingly, strategies differ slightly for each, but the common thread among them is the belief that quality is job one.

Erin Rahr, co-founder and president of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth (large brewery).

  • "Focusing on quality is going to be key for breweries to survive. There is a lot of beer out there now and people are becoming more educated every day on what tastes good and bad in the market."

    "At Rahr & Sons, we focus on the quality of our products and don't look to much into what others are doing. We have chosen to be very innovative with our lab, and have invested in three employees that work on quality control daily. This has also helped us keep consistency while expanding to other states."

Brad Mall, co-founder of Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas (mid-size brewery).

  • "Obviously, quality is the number one aspect in staying competitive. Consistency is also key. I see those as one in the same - consistency is part of quality."

    "As a small, self-distributed brewery, we try to distinguish ourselves with exceptional customer service. It's important our accounts know they can get an immediate response from the brewery and they have the ability to speak directly with the decision makers. Because we self-distribute, we are able to be nimble and do things other distributed breweries may not be able to do. This enhances our relationship with accounts and helps us stand out."

Yianni Arestis, co-founder and CEO of Armadillo Ale Works, Denton (mid-size brewery).

  • "One important aspect is maintaining the highest quality, and that's why we made sure to have a QA/QC lab from day one at our facility."

    "We focus on creating truly unique beers and utilizing new and innovative ingredients. For Brunch Money, we called it an 'Imperial Golden Stout,' and now that's a style name you see from other breweries across the country. Another example would be brewing with mesquite beans or purple corn nectar - to our knowledge we were the first to use either ingredient on a commercial scale.”

    “Our goal is to have beers that are both fully flavored and accessible to all, and we feel we are able to accomplish that and stand out with our innovative brewing methods."

Jacob Sloan, co-founder of On Rotation, Dallas (small brewery).

  • "We insist on producing a high-quality product with the finest ingredients, but we are just as obsessed with offering the best craft beer drinking experience in the market. We have the ability to control the entire experience of consuming our beers, and we consider all parts of that process -- the taproom, the branding, the staff, and the glass -- as part of the product itself."

    "As a small-batch brewery, our quick-churning brew schedule allows us to branch out and take chances on more obscure, expensive, or experimental styles that may not seem viable to the larger breweries. We're able to introduce new beers on a weekly basis, and we are forever evolving the beers we make based on what is on the market and what people enjoy. That keeps us current and keeps things exciting for us and our customers in a way that allows us to stay competitive and relevant no matter how many breweries enter the market."

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

No comments:

Post a Comment